What China’s “New Normal” might mean for its regional biodiversity

This is a blog written by GreenPAC intern Nicholas Sopuch. The opinions expressed in this article are of the author’s, and are not necessarily reflective of the views of GreenPAC.

With more than ten percent of the world’s known species, China is home to a notable portion of Earth’s biodiversity. As a result of its immense geographic size, it possesses a unique mix of differing ecosystems containing numerous endemic organisms.

However, since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China’s biodiversity has been sharply reduced. Unsurprisingly, the immense energy consumption required for the state’s rapid economic and infrastructure development has led to rising carbon emissions levels which devastate the air, water, and land quality of China’s natural environment. In fact, nearly half of China’s terrestrial vertebrates have disappeared over the past 40 years, and the threat of further loss will persist until China’s federal leadership is no longer driven by industrialization and expansion.

The question is, will China’s national interest shift away from economic productivity? If so, when? And what effect might this have on its regional biodiversity?

To answer the questions of if and when, one need only look to the fact that China is currently entering a period of altered growth. Instead of maintaining state driven investments at the massive amount of 50% of its national income (a rate higher than that of Japan in the 1980s), China is gearing its economic future toward consumer spending, the service industry, and technological innovation. This shift in spending is a reaction to the vast debt China has accumulated over the past twenty years, which now equates to approximately